Black history a shared history
PITTSBORO — Martin Luther King Jr., W.E.B. Dubois, J. PhilliprnRandolph — these and many other names stand out in the history ofrnAfrican-Americans, according to Robert Barnes, Central CarolinarnCommunity College history instructor.
Februaryrnis Black History Month and Barnes presented a historical view of itrnFeb. 20 at the college’s Chatham County Campus, where he teaches.
“Blackrnhistory is American history,” Barnes said. “It should foster thernunderstanding of culture and break down prejudices. We all have arnshared heritage.”
Black History Month grewrnout of Black History Week, established in 1926 by the Association forrnthe Study of Negro Life and History, now named the Association for thernStudy of African-American Life and History. Carter G. Woodson, known asrnthe founder of black history, established the organization in 1915. Arnstudy of Woodson and his contributions is the ASAALH’s 2008 theme forrnBlack History Month.
Barnes spoke onrn“Slavery and Its Legacy,” “Black Leadership,” and “The Creation andrnCultivation of the Black Identity,” weaving together the interaction ofrnAfrican-American leaders and social and world events.
Slavery’srnlegacy was the “Jim Crow” era, which lasted from the end of the CivilrnWar to the mid-1960s. It was a time of “total cultural degradation forrnAfrican-Americans, a horribly oppressive time,” Barnes said.
Blackrnleaders, such as Frederick Douglass, appeared first during the era ofrnslavery. Douglass was a run-away slave who became an articulaternabolitionist leader. He helped influence white anti-slavery societiesrnin the North.
Black leadership grew inrnthe decades following Emancipation. The leaders emphasized education,rnequal treatment, political empowerment, and an understanding of thernhistory and contributions of African-Americans to the nation. In 1922,rnWoodson published a history of black Americans, “The Negro in OurrnHistory.” He advocated multiculturalism, the recognition that manyrncultures contribute to the creation of the “American” culture.
Slaveryrnand Jim Crow had forced an identity of subservient, second-classrncitizenship on blacks, but increasing educational, social andrnhistorical movements brought great change, Barnes said. Even as thernSouth became more entrenched in Jim Crow during the 1920s, many blacksrnwere moving northward. Music, literature and art by African-Americansrnburgeoned during the Harlem Renaissance/New Negro Movement of the 1920srnand 1930s.
In World Wars I and II, thernalmost all-black 92nd Battalion fought bravely in France and Italy. InrnEurope, they saw a society without racial segregation. Many brought therndetermination to achieve that back to the United States, Barnes said.
Inrnthe 1960s, the primary thrust was for total racial integration ofrnsociety, he said. Leaders such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.rncalled for judging people by the content of their character, not therncolor of their skin.
During arnquestion-and-answer period following the presentation, some in thernaudience said that having a month set aside to study black historyrncauses separatism. They said black history needs to be more integratedrninto American history books.
Barnes notedrnthat time always has to pass and official records have to becomernavailable in order for historians to gain enough perspective to writernaccurately about past events.
“We’re justrngetting access to the records,” he said, “but compare a historyrntextbook from 1955 to one written in 2005 and you will see progress.”
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